Saturday, April 23, 2022

Weekend Open Thread


  1. Just came back from an 11PM screening of Robert Eggers' THE NORTHMAN (2022, AMC Dolby), which turned into a laugh riot for a large portion of the youthful crowd... unlike the older gentleman seated next to me that, an hour into the film shook his head, stood up and walked out. I'm somewhere in the middle, neither hating or loving this "300"-type arthouse take on Norse mythology fueling an old-fashioned revenge tale. Visually/stylistically Eggers keeps his "The VVitch" and "Lighthouse" streak going (including a small but memorable role for Willem Dafoe), but pumps his technique with a not-insignificant nod to Yasujiro Ozu's 'characters talking/staring directly into the camera' mise en scène to liven-up "Northman's" "Conan The Barbarian"-inspired narrative. Nicole Kidman's de-aging special effects are impressive (and helped immensely by her scenes being lit by night torches), but Alexander Skarsgård's physique is worth 1,000 fake CG volcanos on fire. Never saw an episode of "Game of Thrones," but "The Northman" feels like a roided-up version of that (complete with Anya Taylor-Joy as an Icelandic beauty whose beauty threatens to derail Amleth's life-long revenge quest). A classic FTM 'it's okay' flick, but your mileage may vary depending on your fondness for bloody Norse fairytales.

    Riley Stearns' DUAL (2022, theater) continues the director's personal obsession with disciplined fighting as an extension of its lead characters' self worth (2019's "The Art of Self-Defense")... but a whopper of a final act twist shows Stearns to be willing to kill his babies to make a larger point about humanity... and the banality of "The Hunger Games" I guess? :-P Karen Gillan (the new "Jumanji" sequels) is excellent as a woman trapped in a Catch-22 of her own making about whether she or her identical clone get to live out the rest of her existence. It's a delicate balance between darkly comedic pathos and farce, but Gillan and a game supporting cast (particularly Aaron Paul as a self-defense professional) walk the fine line and come out on top. A worthy rental or eventual streaming choice, since it's limited theatrical window means "Dual" (whose minimalism with special effects and Finland-pretending-to-be-America location are its best and worst attributes) already has cult written all over it. Highly recommended.

    Stanley Donen's CHARADE (1963, Amazon Prime) is so light and airy it threatens to float away into early 60's jet set pretentiousness, "gravity" of the situation (an American widow in Paris threatened by a gang of professional thugs with death unless she gives them the $250,000 her dead hubby hid in plain sight) be damned. It has character names (Tex Panthollow, Hamilton Bartholomew) that seem written by Scooby-Doo writers pouring their self-hatred onto their work. But alas, when Henry Mancini's peppy music accompanies a stylish Maurice Binder opening titles montage or the star wattage of Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn reaches maximum romantic chemistry sparks (helped immensely by the movie making fun of the stars' age difference), "Charade" works despite its McGuffin not really being worth the trouble. George Kennedy as an animalistic metal-clawed thug and James Coburn threatening Audrey's dress with cigarette ashes notwithstanding, a fun and entertaining viewing (especially with the Discord Jury Room 4.0 crowd as a watchalong Greek Choir). Recommended with reservations.

    1. 'Nicole Kidman's de-aging special effects'

      Is that what we call botox nowadays...?

      I'm sorry that was mean, nicole kidman is a fantastic actress and i like her a kot

    2. We all know what Kidman looks like now, so her appearance in "The Northman" not showing a trace of it is an impressive bit of "invisible" effects trickery, IMHO. 🙂👍

    3. I've seen some interesting reviews on THE NORTHMAN and can't wait to check it out this evening. =)

    4. Re The Northman continuing Egger's visual/stylistic streak, I kind of disagree. I thought in the prologue, his visuals were as good and Eggers-y as ever, but after that it becomes so heavily digital that most scenes looked like boss fight introductions in Elden Ring. Don't get me started on those CGI foxes... Half expected one of them to barrel the camera and say "chaos reigns".

      The characters were really poorly written, in my opinion. SPOILER - Anya Taylor Joy falls in love with him despite him participating in the murder of every child and old person in her village??? He falls in love with her despite his repeated insistence that he despises witches? It seemed like their romance happened because the script needed it to, not because it organically developed.

      I don't know, I wanted to love it... I love The Witch and The Lighthouse... But after the prologue the movie just annoyed me.

    5. Thanks for all everyone's thoughts on The Northman. I'm looking forward to watching it, but I'll keep my expectations tempered.


    Rewatched BLOODSPORT (1988, HBO Max) last week for Jury Room 4.0 watchalong, but forgot to comment about it. Badly paced (Jean-Claude Van Damme's editing skills match his acting and accent... ouch!) and acting by everyone not worth a damn (even Forest Whitaker blows, and he was good six years prior in "Fast Times At Ridgemont High"!), but such a time capsule of 'B' movie attitude, maximizing location shooting and letting fighting professionals strut their stuff. Donald Gibb's white trashy Jackson seems primed to become JCVD's antagonist, but Bolo Yeung has screen presence and pectoral muscles to match the stars' bare ass and splits technique. But damn if "Bloodsport's" Stan Bush songs don't match "Transformers: The Movie" and "Rocky III/IV" in capturing the essence of 80's montage editing at its prime. Recommended with reservations as the guiltiest of guilty 80's pleasures.

    Ming-Sing Wong's MAN ON THE EDGE (2022, theater) shows that the old-school Hong Kong action movies are alive and well, though basically indistinguishable (plug-in effects for squibs, badly-rendered cheap CG for fire and/or dangerous stunts, etc.) from the product showing up on streaming and low-budget Hollywood studios. Undercover HK policeman Lok (Richie Jen) is in too deep with his crew of gangsters, so much so that when the crew boss wants out Lok is a prime candidate to replace him. But a mole inside the police chain of command threatens to unravel Lok's efforts to find the secret power behind the scenes. Badly-translated but directed with energy, "Man On the Edge" breaks zero new ground and has no surprises. Weekend rental fodder at best. :-(

    Last and certainly least, Rosalind Ross' FATHER STU (2022, theater) means well but it's a mess of a biopic about a down-on-his-luck boxer turned wannabe L.A. actor that ultimately finds religion just in time to confront a personal/physical crisis that puts his newfound faith to the ultimate test. You can see clearly the scenes that would make Mark Wahlberg (a shouting match with God at an empty church), Mel Gibson (a hungover heart-to-heart with a grown-up son he never bonded with), Malcolm McDowell (denying a devout man his chance to practice) or Jacki Weaver (hospital scene) sign up for the project. "Father Stu" proved to me that Wahlberg is truly a star because, as uninterested as I was in the narrative (takes almost 80 minutes for Stuart to actually become a seminarian), I never felt that I wasted my time because hanging out with Mark for two hours didn't feel like a loss. Rental for most, a decent streaming alternative for Wahlberg completists.

    1. The beauty of Bloodsport isn't the feature songs by Stan Bush, but it's the background score during the last 1/3 of the movie, during the fight tournament. It's basically the same music over the whole thing. I get it in my head often, and never regret it.

  3. Yesterday, a friend of mine, my flatmate and I had a little early 90s Curtis Hanson run with BAD INFLUENCE, THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, and THE RIVER WILD. We wanted to see L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, but haven't managed due to time reasons.

    Now, Curtis Hanson is not someone that is talked about a lot in my peer group, and to be completely honest, I haven't heard about BAD INFLUENCE and THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE before (well, besides of JB and Patrick talking about it briefly on their L.A. CONFIDENTIAL episode). I was probably too young for these movies when they aired in TV here in the 90s, but I do remember THE RIVER WILD was playing a lot on the TV in my youth, I haven't watched it before, though.

    What can I say. All three movies surprised us very positively and are so different. Yuppie-slick blue and gray Los Angeles looked great for BAD INFLUENCE. Rob Lowe is a great bad guy in a movie that has only characters with flaws.
    After that, we switched the location to the beautiful upper-middle class suburbs of Seattle in the movie that played the best for us yesterday: THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE. I really liked how "normal" all the characters felt, yet I have to say that I felt a bit uncomfortable with the 90s movie cliché of the good-hearted mentally challenged black man (Ernie Hudson - to be clear, it is not his fault, he gave a good performance). Rebecca De Mornay played wonderful against Annabella Sciorra, who has a chilling scene when her asthma spray runs out - it was frightening.
    And last but not least, THE RIVER WILD. It has some wonderful landscape shots and great draft action. Some action, especially regarding the father (David Strathairn), who is faster on foot than the boat floating on the river, bugged me a bit, but that is a minor quibble. Good movie, strong cast (Meryl Streep, Kevin Bacon and John C. Reilly), fun.

    We had a great day.

    1. Bacon is such a rapey douchebag dick in "River Wild." He rarely played bad guys, but when he did ("x-Men: First Class") Kevin crushed it. 🤏😷

    2. I've never seen LA Confidential. It's at the top of my netflix list and I'll probably watch it after the new Linklater movie. I love Crowe, so this has been a big blind spot for me.

  4. Yo yo yo my F-this buds!

    Couple quickies:

    Virus :32 (Shudder 2022. Spanish w subtitles)

    New zombie flick on Shudder. Ok..i need to amend that as i know what a touchy polarizing subject it is in the horror community. rage virus flick on Shudder. I dug it a LOT. The genre is very very hard to be original with and this flick has some messed up concepts within that we've seen before a tidbit but it also has some original ideas and 'rules'. The entire flick takes place within an abandoned recreational facility where a mother and daughter are trapped during an outbreak. 90m long which is just right. Really great ratcheting up of tension. STRONG performances from a small cast. Worth it for zombie fans...SORRY...for rage virus fans.

    Tony Hawk: Till the Wheels Come Off (2022 HBO)

    Phenom documentary if skateboarding or an interest in it has ever been a part of your life. As one who grew up during the late 80s boom and skated (full disclosure: skated horribly. im a nerd) with friends this documentary captures so much of the skate explosion and may of the early stars. Personally i liked the overall involvement of the early Bones Brigade crew the most. Two standout observations: 1) i wont spoil it but there is a moment where a very jaded ex-skateboard star tells a story that just flips the script. made me cry. 2) Rodney Mullen, who's name some of you may know as one of the worlds greatest freestyle skaters, is a stand out interviewee throughout as he has this almost guru-like way of speaking softly, sweetly, and philosophically. Phenom skating doc and skating history. Also a nice glimpse into the wiring of someone with the drive, skills, and obsession to become literally one of the best ever at what they do.

  5. I for one really enjoyed THE NORTHMAN. It's a bona-fide revenge/action flick, but seen through Eggers' weirdo-historical style.

    THE GOONIES (1985). What can I say that hasn't been said yet? They spent millions of dollars creating some of the most breathtaking sets ever built for a movie, and then let a bunch of 12-year-olds run around in them. The movie is nonsense, but it's joyous nonsense.

    CRIMSON TIDE (1995). Float the buoy!

    CHARADE (1963). Great fun. A twisty-turny crime/spy caper, and with more witty banter than it knows what to do with.

    ANACONDA (1997). Ugh. Way too much Jon Voight overacting and not nearly enough snake action.

    I KNOW WHO KILLED ME (2007). This shows up on all the worst-movie-ever lists, and it certainly is an oddity. It may not work, but I appreciate such a big ambitious swing for the fences. That said, I wonder if the movie's big twist would have been undone if the characters just used Google at the start.

    1. I haven't made a top 5 movies ever, but Crimson Tide is possibly in there. So good. Great score too.

    Didn’t really find anything to like in this, except Matt Smith is fun (I’d never seen him in anything before). The girlfriend is....awful. How dare they make such a bland woman character.

    It’s tempting to say “superhero movies are boring now because there are so many”, but after really liking Spider Man No Way Home and Batman, I rather think the majority of them are just not done very well. They COULD be good.

    I thought the whole time “I wish I was watching Kraven The Hunter right now. One more year to go!”

    Alicia and I saw this.... Not! We saw 10 minutes and I laughed out loud, heartily, the entire time until Alicia started fussing and causing a huge scene. I said Alicia, I will kill you. And everyone else in the theater looked like they were about to kill her, too, so we left. Someone gave me a tip - let the kid watch a different movie on the iPhone. Gonna try that.

    I admit I had to watch this 3 times to understand all the exposition. All the wars these family members had waged on each other off-screen, before this wonderful royal family holiday gathering takes place in England in 1183. My takeaways from this masterpiece are: 1) God I love Shakespearean actors, 2) Peter O’Toole is dangerously charming, like it would be very bitter-sweet to love him, 3) men have way too much power. When you can make your wife who loves you cry by forcing her to watch you make love to a younger woman who she basically raised from childhood...? My heart broke for Katherine Hepburn. I feel less bad about the trend of plainly objectifying men (well male actors) after watching this. It’s deserved.

  7. As always, I thoroughly enjoy reading everyone's thoughts on their recent watches. I've been so busy on weekends recently that I can't participate.